Wealthy people in India have been escaping the country on private jets and commercial airfares are skyrocketing as the country’s Covid-19 crisis worsens and international borders snap shut.
Indian tycoons and rich families have reportedly fled India for boltholes across Europe, the Middle East and Indian Ocean destinations such as the Maldives, which will ban flights from India on Tuesday, sparking a last-minute rush.
Australia will suspend passenger flights from India until May 15, the federal government announced on Tuesday, and Canada, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and the UK have already done the same.
Wealthy Indians are paying as much as 1.5 million rupees, or more than $27,800, for a one-way flight out of India, which includes ground handling and other fees, said Rajan Mehra, the chief executive officer of the New Delhi-based private jet firm Club One Air.
“It’s not only the ultra rich,” he told Bloomberg.
“Whoever can afford to take a private jet are taking private jets.”
Mehra said in some cases, travellers would have to pay extra if the plane needed to be sent back to India empty.
UAE authorities imposed a 10-day ban on flights from India on Sunday. Previously, the Delhi-Dubai route was one of the busiest in the world.
A spokesman for Air Charter Service India told AFP the demand for private jets was “absolutely crazy” before the ban came into effect.
Another provider, Enthral Aviation, got close to 80 inquiries for flights to Dubai in a single day.
“We have requested more aircraft from abroad to meet the demand,” a spokesman for Enthral Aviation told AFP.
“It costs $52,000 to hire a 13-seater jet from Mumbai to Dubai, and US$31,000 (NZ$43,000) to hire a six-seater aircraft.
“People are making groups and arranging to share our jets just to get a seat … We’ve had some queries for Thailand but mostly the demand is for Dubai.”
Commercial airline prices are soaring as seats on flights out of India become harder to come by. In the final days before the UAE’s flight ban came into effect, a one-way flight in economy class from Mumbai to Dubai cost as much as $1600 — more than 10 times the regular price.
But as the country continues to set new records for infections and the hospital system threatens to crumble, it’s a price many of the wealthy have been willing to pay.
“That shows how desperately people are trying to get away,” Mehra said.
On Tuesday India recorded a massive rise in virus cases, with 323,144 new infections and 2771 deaths, bringing the caseload to more than 17.6 million.
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